NEW YORK (CNS) — The free-for-all world of local TV news reporting provides the backdrop for the strikingly creepy character study “Nightcrawler” (Open Road).
Though it showcases a memorable — if unsettling — performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, writer-director Dan Gilroy’s drama also features a gritty urban atmosphere pervaded by an air of moral nihilism. It thus calls for thoughtful assessment by mature, well-grounded viewers.
Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a borderline-autistic Los Angeles loner scratching out a bare-bones existence through the nonviolent theft of items like scrap metal or an unattended racing bike.
Accidently exposed to the work of the breed of ambulance-chasing cameramen whose disdainful nickname gives the film its title, Bloom takes up the seamy craft — and discovers that he’s quite good at it. Mainly, that’s due to the fact that he displays a total disregard for any semblance of ethical standards. The more gruesome the images he can intrusively videotape at the site of a car wreck or on the scene of a violent crime, the better.
In fact, Bloom’s indifference to the suffering he captures brings him so much success that Nina (Rene Russo), the producer of the show to which he markets his sensationalist wares, becomes dependent on his output to maintain ratings — and thereby keep her job. Since Bloom is attracted to the considerably older Nina, the power he wields over her leads to some queasy exchanges in the dialogue.
With his fortunes in the ascent, Bloom hires homeless drifter Rick (Riz Ahmed) to serve as his assistant and sidekick. But his proximity to Bloom eventually reveals to Rick just how dark the hidden depths of his employer’s obvious eccentricity are, an insight that leaves him not only repelled but alarmed.
Gyllenhaal’s Bloom is mesmerizingly off-kilter, utterly tone deaf to the social cues of those around him and delusionally pretentious. Addicted to the kind of bromides that might be overheard at a particularly woeful team-building retreat, he is nonetheless genuinely driven to succeed, and to do so at any cost.
Via Bloom’s disturbing antics, Gilroy adeptly satirizes both yellow journalism and the public hunger for tabloid images that fuels its excesses. But as Bloom’s initial moral sketchiness leads on to more sinister wrongdoing, distance and discernment are required to resist treating his descent as a giddy vicarious ride into amorality.
The film contains considerable, often gory violence, several uses of profanity, brief but coarse references to sexuality and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103